College graduates still struggling in job market

Updated: 2014-03-11 11:04

By Chen Weihua(China Daily USA)

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The Chinese government has been excellent in creating jobs with a total of 13.1 million jobs added in 2013, compared with only 2.2 million in the United States. And in his government work report to the ongoing National People's Congress (NPC) sessions last Wednesday, Premier Li Keqiang pledged to create at least another 10 million jobs this year.

However, that kind of staggering achievement and target still may not meet the high demand and expectation. So when Yin Weimin, minister of Human Resources and Social Security, walked out of the NPC meeting rooms in Beijing two days ago, he was surrounded by reporters, with some bombarding him with questions of how he was going to tackle the tough challenge faced by college graduates in finding jobs.

The difficulty of locating a job for college graduates is a relatively new phenomenon in China. In 2001, Chinese universities and colleges graduated only 1.14 million, but that number skyrocketed to 6.99 million in 2013. And this year number will hit 7.27 million.

To address the widespread concern among college graduates and their families, the ministry issued a document last week, calling for giving top priority this year in creating jobs for college graduates. Yin called for more incentives in taxation, finance and social security for micro-, small- and medium-firms which hire college graduates. He encouraged college graduates, who usually like to look for jobs at large firms and governmental institutions, to actively seek jobs in these businesses. He also promised more efforts in job training and support for students who intend to start up their own businesses.

A report by the MyCOS Data, a consulting firm in higher education, showed that only 35 percent of the college graduates from October 29, 2012, to April 10, 2013, had secured a job contract, down 12 percent from the previous year. Meanwhile, only 26 percent of Master degree graduates had a contract, down 11 percent.

Animation, law, biotechnology, physical education and English were some of the toughest majors in terms of finding a job and having good income and job satisfaction, while geology, shipping, petroleum and mining became hot cakes.

However, another study by the Peking University Institute of Economics of Education showed that last year 43.7 percent of college graduates, including both undergraduate and graduate levels, said they have a job. This number, plus those who intend to pursue further education and those who plan to start their own businesses, means that nearly 72 percent of college graduates would have a job. Yet that still leaves more than 20 percent without a job.

College graduates still struggling in job market

While the global financial crisis and China's recent economic slowdown have often been blamed partly for the low employment rate among college graduates, many believe China's higher education is not graduating the kind of people that are demanded in the changing marketplace.

So while many college graduates could not find their jobs, employers also complain they could not fill the right persons to the positions available. Many college graduates simply lack any hands-on ability or would shun away from any blue-collar jobs, which are now in large demand when China's manufacturing industry moves up the ladder.

Just over the weekend, NPC deputy Cui Xiangqun, an astronomical scientist, criticized China's universities by saying that "today's graduate school graduates are not much different from those who graduated from two-year colleges and vocational schools before."

Discrimination in gender and against students not graduating from top schools is still a problem in China, but the woes faced by Chinese college graduates in the job market are clearly not unique.

A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York two months ago revealed that college graduates in the US are having more difficulty finding good jobs than in the past.

The study found that employment outcomes vary by major, with students specializing in technical and growth fields faring the best.

But unemployment rates for the group have been quite high since the onset of the great recession. Moreover, underemployment among recent graduates, defined in the study as working in a job that typically does not require a bachelor's degree, has been rising since the 2001 recession, according to the study.

The authors, Jaison Abel, Richard Deitz and Yaqin Su, cautioned that fairly high unemployment and underemployment are not uncommon for young people after they leave college. Making the transition to the labor market has traditionally required time. However, the study showed that today's recent graduates are increasingly working in low-wage jobs or working part-time.

There is no doubt that the job market has been less than rosy for college graduates both in China and the US.

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(China Daily USA 03/11/2014 page2)